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Overall Rating

Awesome: 32.8%
Worth A Look46.4%
Average: 6.4%
Pretty Bad: 11.2%
Total Crap: 3.2%

8 reviews, 77 user ratings

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Open Range
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by Erik Childress

"There's Hope For Martin Brest Yet"
4 stars

It takes some incredible moxie or an enormously inflated ego for someone to jump back in the director's chair after creating one of the most beleaguered films ever in The Postman. No one would doubt either in relation to Kevin Costner who began with one of the more impressive resumes for any actor only to later sink under the weight of increasingly mediocre projects and his own self-importance. Open Range is a return to the old days. Not just Costner's glory years, but a flashback to both the great American western and a form of storytelling where gunshots were not an immediate reaction but a methodical inevitability.

Early comparisons have likened Open Range to Unforgiven since short memories usually pick out the most recent and respected title in the genre catalog. You have to go back a lot further than that to films like High Noon and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance to appreciate what Costner has accomplished. Boss (Robert Duvall) and Charley (Costner) have been living off the land together for "what they call a decade," as Boss puts it. With hired hands, the good-hearted Mose (Abraham Benrubi) and the nave Button (Diego Luna), who doesn't understand the far-reaching importance of never cheating at cards, the unit drives cattle, eat in the rain and avoid the daily hustle-bustle of living amongst the towns.

When Mose, uncharacteristically, gets himself involved in a brawl at the nearest general store, Boss & Charley discover that the business practices of Sheriff Poole (James Russo) and Denton Baxter (Michael Gambon) may not have the law as their first priority. Their prejudices towards "freegrazers" will lead to further violence that they will be unable to avoid even with a preemptive strike to protect themselves and their possessions.

A standard tale of revenge then becomes not only a meditation on the act itself (as Unforgiven was) but a confident parable that doesn't depend on a set piece every 20 minutes to guide its way through. Costner takes his time hitting all the beats of Craig Storper's screenplay (based on Lauran Paine's novel) which will include understanding these two cowboys with a minimal amount of historical exposition, a budding romance that is anything but stock and a climax that is dependent on all these elements to advance beyond the usual "end everything with bullets" finale.

Costner (the actor) hasn't been this great in years. It's a quiet, introspective performance about a man with a past full of violence thanks to a country that fought over its prejudices. He's a man of action that doesn't want to be and there's something both sad and chilling about him when he advises Boss not to stand behind him. Then you've got Duvall, one of the quietest forces in all of film who can explode into toughness or dial it down to that father figure who has seen it all and wishes he had seen none of it. Observe the late scene in the general store as Boss carefully chooses what to splurge on. He wants to relish every moment of making his selection as much as enjoying his final purchase. Both performances are worthy of Oscar consideration.

Annette Bening plays Sue Barlow, the assistant to the town doctor who has a good heart but has become as emotionally distant as Charley. Their scenes together don't play as if they exist only to find themselves in each other's arms as the credits roll. There's some edge and indifference on their parts. It takes Boss to urge him on to come clean with his destiny and whether or not it will actually involve her. It's a beautiful scene well-played by all the actors. One last moment seems extraneous since we don't need everything to be resolved twice, but by then we've taken the full journey and a couple extra minutes to soak everything in is hardly wasted time.

It may take a few more ticks of the clock to compose yourself after the final shootout, which will rival some of the best ever filmed. The buildup and the decisions how to conduct themselves takes the better part of two hours. Some of the film's best scenes are the few that precede the OK Corral-like showdown. There isn't choreography to it all, despite Charley spouting his best wisdom on how the chess pieces will react. It begins in random, more misses then hits with no clear shots as it continues to escalate. It's brutal, exciting and an incredibly satisfying conclusion.

Costner is not homaging the Western of old with a knowing wink, more than paying tribute to the ones he grew up with. The High Noon-like setting and even the old coot in town who knows everything and willing to step up when his friendship is called for (a nice performance by the late Michael Jeter in one of his final roles) are graceful nods to the past, but it's the way the narrative develops and holds all its strands together that makes us reminisce. Whether it's for the better part of Costner's career or the days of the true Old West(ern), Open Range is an admirable entry onto either.

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originally posted: 08/15/03 16:15:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell good western 4 stars
1/16/12 John Great scenery and story, overlong gunfight. 5 stars
2/20/11 Ark Damned decent, didn't suck like most of Costner's other crap! 4 stars
5/05/09 the dork knight There Will Be Duvall. 5 stars
12/06/08 Michelle Loved it..thats for sticking with it thorough the battles Kevin! 4 stars
11/23/08 Goodman not the epic that Kevin hoped for 3 stars
11/21/08 Shaun Wallner Thought this was a good film. 4 stars
6/13/07 al smith amazing the best gun fight ever.costner is a great director 5 stars
2/23/07 Weblynx I loved this , great actors 5 stars
2/13/07 R.W.Welch Above average oater, despite overblown gunfight. Duvall is aces. 4 stars
6/25/06 MP Bartley The Untouchables replanted to the old west. That is a good thing by the way. 5 stars
3/12/06 daveyt good cinematography, looked and felt real. Duvall excellent... 4 stars
1/08/06 Daveman Engaging drama, beautiful photography, unusually good performance from Costner of all peopl 4 stars
11/12/05 Danielle Cordova Open Range seems to be a modern day western. Costner did a trimendous job. I watch 24/7 5 stars
10/16/05 Quigley the end gunfight was way overrated and not cool. costner was lame, but duvall redeemed all. 3 stars
10/08/05 Jonathon Holmes one of the 10 best films of the year 5 stars
9/25/05 David Jones Slow in the right way. 4 stars
9/09/05 Tom Burns An enjoyable western. 4 stars
8/26/05 Michael Good Movie 5 stars
8/03/05 ALDO Poorly written disappointment with lots of bullshit backstory dialogue. Best gunfight ever 3 stars
6/03/05 Steve Newman too slow BUT the scenery is breathtaking. I did enjoy it - cut off 30 mins please 3 stars
2/05/05 Carolyn Rathburn Loved it truistic for the time. 5 stars
1/05/05 Lord Jiggy Classic in so many ways...just a few missteps, but the antidote to swill like Van Helsing 5 stars
11/28/04 smilesx the worst video i've seen since red dawn. 1 stars
10/27/04 Carolyn Metz I really enjoy seeing this on the big screen. Love the scenery. 4 stars
9/11/04 Edler A great western. And I really am not a fan of Costner. 5 stars
8/24/04 Stevie Y. A beautiful movie in every respect. A dead-on story line. A sweet, heartwarming romance. 5 stars
8/15/04 dfdea 4 stars for Western Appreciators, 3 stars for the average filmgoer 4 stars
8/07/04 Mike Great movie. 4 stars
8/01/04 DJ Great movie!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
7/17/04 axe westerns are silly no longer, thanks to this one 5 stars
7/11/04 Ingo Unique tone, great actors, albeit a little too long. 4 stars
3/26/04 rojo Best Western since Unforgiven. 5 stars
3/21/04 bruce miller good western...predictable 4 stars
3/21/04 Linda Ellis Great movie! 5 stars
3/18/04 rachel burke it was a little draen out 3 stars
3/15/04 Lord Jiggy Curse me for a moral failure, I really enjoyed this film. It built to an end. 5 stars
3/13/04 Chief Dan George the Third Fuck this. "The Oulaw Josey Wales = The Greatest Goddamn Western ever made" 2 stars
2/28/04 william pathetically inane....clipping my toes are more photogenic and interesting...bad tv series 1 stars
2/24/04 LMW Really wanted to like it but couldn't. . .Mind numbing tedium. . . 1 stars
2/22/04 CARRIE good movie...the humorous parts helped alot 5 stars
2/17/04 jj an outstanding western with excellent sound effects!!! 5 stars
2/16/04 Jack Duvall's performance is fantastic. The script is somewhat ponderous. 4 stars
1/26/04 twodogs Good acting, Good gunfight scene,predictable ending 4 stars
1/22/04 Abe Giesbrecht Honest, and refreshing 5 stars
1/21/04 Betty White Either u love it, in which you look over its flaws, or it leaves u cold. 4 stars
1/20/04 Walter Lorenz Boring, flat and unengaging from beginning to end. Seen it all and better. 3 stars
11/28/03 john a great western with a honest story - the shootout alone is worth the price of admission 5 stars
11/06/03 Green Beret Packers Costner & Bening break new ground; Duvall his usual solid self. 4 stars
10/08/03 Erik Van Sant At last, Costner proves the only way he doesn't suck is when he does a period piece. 5 stars
9/25/03 malcolm 4-star, despite Costner, i got one word for u, KC: inflection! 4 stars
9/19/03 April Malan Wonderful, exciting, great! I loved it, one of the best of the summer. 5 stars
9/18/03 DICK Can't touch Lonsome Dove, but it as real as a western gets 5 stars
9/17/03 William H. Collins Despite the slow start,the movie is well worth the wait. 4 stars
9/11/03 Buck A damn solid Kevin Costner movie. Needs some trimming, but gorgeous and refreshingly simple 4 stars
9/08/03 leper3 meditative, elegaic and powerful 5 stars
9/04/03 KingNeutron Pretty good overall, gun effects were GOOD but film needed more EDITING espec in beginning 4 stars
9/02/03 geo. c. flora beautiful and outstanding 5 stars
9/01/03 Suzanne Paul Zimmerman is an idiot 5 stars
8/26/03 Benita Hume really enjoyed it 4 stars
8/26/03 jean a beautifully filmed,very well -acted movie with many unforgettable scenes 5 stars
8/25/03 Ahnold Took too long getting to action. But still worth look (matinee price only) 4 stars
8/25/03 Desperado Good acting by Duvall and Costner make this movie a cant miss 5 stars
8/24/03 Michael hall I'd clean the cow shit off my boots with the DVD 1 stars
8/24/03 K R Stilwell Loved it! 5 stars
8/23/03 Joe Beautifully done. It's about time Costner had a hit. 4 stars
8/21/03 Jack Bourbon Costner isn't so bad sometimes 4 stars
8/18/03 J. Brande Costner is back with a vengeance with a beautiful, riveting film. Tremendous Duvall 5 stars
8/18/03 Belinda Adams Robert Duvall is brilliant. OSCAR-worthy 5 stars
8/17/03 Ethan Costner in top form! 5 stars
8/17/03 Reese Witherspoon suckzzzzz Good, but loses it in final half hour (and the movie is too long anyway) 3 stars
8/17/03 John Zelk Duvall is incredible. He deserves a BEST ACTOR nomination OSCAR. 5 stars
8/16/03 FlaFan Terrific movie 5 stars
8/16/03 Dr. Bitterpants IGNORE Paul "shorter is better" Zimmerman's pallid review -- this is a great film! 4 stars
8/15/03 James Mathews Costner is back riding high in the saddle. Easily movie of the summer and year to date! 5 stars
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  15-Aug-2003 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jan-2004



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